‘Animal Sacrifice an Essential Religious Practice’: Plea in SC Upholding Animal and Birds Sacrifices Prohibition Law

By Sharvari Lohakare

On Thursday, one PE Gopalkrishnan, a Shakthi worshipper, has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court against the order of the Kerala High Court, upholding the Constitutional Validity of the Kerala Animals and Bird Sacrifices prohibition Act, 1968. The appellant has claimed that animal sacrifice is an integral part of his religious practice and as such the High Court order encroaches upon his fundamental right under Article 25(1) of the Constitution.

For the context, via an order dated June 16, 2020, the Kerala High Court dismissed a challenging plea to the impugned Act, in limine. A bench comprising of Chief Justice Manikumar and Justice Shaji P. Chaly observed that there are no materials on record to substantiate which community of the religion is required under the Hindu or any other religion, to kill an animal, for propitiating, if not personal consumption, in the manner required in the religion.

Advocate A Karthik appeared on behalf of the petitioner and stated that the order of dismissal was passed without considering the contentions raised by him in his application for impleadment. The petitioner has taken the ground of ‘Unreasonably interferes with the rights of the Petitioners under Articles 25 and 26 of the Constitution of India.’ The Petitioner has contended that animal sacrifice is an integral part of Shakthi worship and since he is unable to make an offering to the deity, there is a reasonable apprehension of facing the “wrath of Devi“. He has also placed a detailed list of doctrines and scriptural mandates which essentially prove the ‘inalterability’ of the practice of animal sacrifice to the petitioner’s religious customs and traditions.

Another ground stated by the petitioner through his counsel is ‘Violation of Article 14 of the Constitution of India’. The Petitioner has contended that the Act criminalizes animal sacrifice to the exclusion of identical practices by other religious communities, without the same being founded on any ‘intelligible differentia.’ The petitioner has submitted that, “If the object of the law were to ensure preservation and protection of animals, it would demand its uniform application across all religious communities.  The impugned Act criminalizes the intent behind the animal sacrifice, and not animal sacrifice per se. If the sacrifice is not for propitiating any deity but for personal consumption even in the precincts of temple, it is not forbidden. This arbitrary classification is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

The last ground is Impugned Act is repugnant to The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 (Central Legislation) and therefore, void in view of Article 254 of the Constitution of India’. Based on thisground the petitioner has pointed out that while the Central Legislations grants an exemption to the killing of animals for religious purposes, the concerned Act selectively criminalizes the same action, negating the provisions. In furtherance of this ground the plea states that, “It resorts to a distinction pertaining to the terminologies used, the former employing the term ‘killing’, and the latter employing the term ‘sacrifice’. This is done in ignorance of Section 2(b) of the State Act which defines ‘sacrifice’ to include within its ambit killing, and maiming.”

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